OFF! – Wasted Years

Here we are, well into the career of OFF!, the careerist uberpunk band whose raison de etree is probably to pick the bones of Black Flag for maximum profit. When OFF! emerged on the scene four years ago, few would have predicted that the band would be so prolific. In 2010, OFF! was welcomed as a breath of fresh air to a beyond stagnant hardcore scene – a bunch of stalwarts coming back to reap their due and to show the proverbial kids how it’s done. At this point, four long years later, the burning question is does anybody care anymore?

OFF!’s third longplayer, Wasted Years, is another punk-by-numbers masterpiece. The band is doctrinaire in its approach: Blast a couple or three riffs while Keith screams about whatever and then quit playing before the listener knows exactly what’s hit ‘em. Then repeat – in a different song with a different riff and a different screed that is similar in intensity and anger to the one before. Wasted Years delivers 16 songs in less than 30 minutes. The songs come at such a fast and furious pace that the album seems like one epic hardcore song instead of 16. Granted, it’s a really good song.

What makes Wasted Years stand out among the OFF! canon is the production. The band’s first two albums (First Four EPs and the eponymous second album, OFF!) were plagued by a grating vocal timbre. Morris’s vocals sounded tinny and overdriven – as if he was singing through a cheap PA in some cruddy basement venue. I suppose this was supposed to connote some kind of immediacy and/or urgency. Thankfully producer (and bassist) Steve McDonald has jettisoned the megaphone effect for a warmer vocal sound that doesn’t wear out the listener quite as fast.

So what we have here is more of the same stuff: blasting hardcore played by a kickass band whose militaristic approach is to bust in, blast everything and everyone to rubble, and disappear. Thankfully, the songs are a wee bit longer, there are the briefest solos by ace guitarist Dimitri Coats (More please!) and the band’s riffage sometimes teeters on the brink of AC/DC style classic rock, which is actually welcome. By no means a revelation, Wasted Years is nevertheless a strong set by a band that uses its tried-and-true formula to maximum effect.

Wasted Years